May 8th is Julian of Norwich Feast Day.
And so our good Lord answered to all the questions and doubts which I could raise, saying most comfortingly: I may make all things well, and I can make all things well, and I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well; and you will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well… And in these… words God wishes us to be enclosed in rest and in peace. (Showings, p. 229)
This is the central message of her writings.
Who was Julian of Norwich (1342 – 1416?) She was an anchoress, not a nun. She chose the life of solitude after she received her Divine ‘showings’ when she was a teenager. She became a hermit in order to devote herself to prayer and contemplation. And she counselled people through a hole in the wall from her 10 x 10 foot anchorhold attached to the church. There she lived with her cat.
Very little is known of her early life, even her real name. What we know about her is gleaned from her book and from other contemporary writings. She was born in 1342 during the time of the Black Death. This was a very unpleasant age to live in England. The black death or plague led to very bad social conditions and the oppression of the poor. There was a shortage of labour, high taxes and bad harvests, prices were soaring and unrest was bound to follow. The climax of this unrest was the Peasants Revolt in 1381. The wider Church was also in a sorry state: the Religious Orders were at loggerheads, the Papacy had left Rome and was in exile at Avignon in France, and not half a mile from S. Julian`s Church, the early followers of the Protestant John Wycliff, The Lollards, were being burnt in the Lollards Pit, just the other side of the river. It is into this dire situation that the girl we know as Julian of Norwich who calls herself a simple, unlettered creature, comes bringing with her a message of divine love and hope.*
The world doesn’t sound too much different centuries later.
Dame Julian’s book is called THE REVELATIONS OF DIVINE LOVE the first book to be written in English by a woman.
In her book, Praying with Julian of Norwich, Gloria Durka writes, “Many people have explored the consolation and depth of Julian’s spirituality. For example, the last movement of T.S. Eliot’s poem Four Quartets links the twentieth-century poet with Dame Julian, who lived six centuries earlier:
WIth the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And we know the place for the first time….
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well….
With Julian’s optimism we are encouraged to see more clearly that pain in quelled by love and we can trust in the providence of a gracious God: “It is all in the choosing, it is all in the asking.” May we choose life over and over again.”
“All shall be well.”
Lydia McCauley All Shall Be Well